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Olivia Newton-John

Overcoming Breast Cancer with Grace and Gratitude

by Laura Shipp

Celebrity Cancer Survivor


(photo by Pamela Springsteen)

Olivia Newton-John is one of the most internationally known names in the entertainment industry. She has won four Grammys and recorded 15 top ten singles, including five #1 hits. If that weren’t enough, her co-starring role with John Travolta in Grease launched her into superstardom and led to the production of the most successful musical soundtrack ever recorded. Olivia has had many high points in her life and career, yet she has not been without her share of adversity. Recently, Olivia Newton-John took a little time to chat with Coping® magazine about overcoming breast cancer and what she is doing now to help other women care for themselves in body, heart and spirit.

Olivia suggests that good instincts led to her cancer diagnosis. After finding a lump in her breast in 1992, she decided to have a mammogram, followed by a needle biopsy. Though the results were benign, both Olivia and her doctor felt something was wrong. She followed her intuition and decided to do further exploration.

The following July 4th weekend, shortly after hearing the news that her father had passed away, Olivia received a call from her doctor telling her that she indeed had breast cancer. “I kind of had a feeling, and because so much was going on with the loss of my father, I didn’t really have time to grieve him,” she recalls. “I was kind of in shock. I actually, believe it or not, made a lot of jokes. That was my way of getting through it. It was just too much. And then I went through all the stages that everyone goes through. Then finally acceptance, and then deciding I’m going to fight it, I’m not going to give in to it.”

“I’m so fortunate to get a chance to do what I really love to do.”

In order to focus all her energy on fighting the cancer, Olivia immediately put her professional life on hold. She admits she learned a valuable lesson in the process. “I was due to go on tour that week. And my band was assembled, the set was made, my clothes were made and we were about to start the rehearsal portion. So I had to cancel everything,” she says. “A lot of people were affected, but I learned that to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself.”

In the first few days after her diagnosis, Olivia contemplated giving up her music career altogether. “I thought I was going to stop singing,” she says. “I thought that when I got through this, I was just going to live life and not sing and just be at home. And then, through time, my singing and my desire to create music came through, and I realized that’s what kept me healthy. Singing was such a part of me that I went back to doing it.”

Her breast cancer experience inspired Olivia to write GAIA: One Women’s Journey, her most personal album. “I found that music really makes me emotional because I’m so tuned in to it. So when I’m sad or going through something, I write music. That was a very personal album for me, partly about my journey,” she says. “And this last year when I went through a difficult time, writing music and having a purpose and creating this new healing CD, Grace and Gratitude, has been the best thing I could have done. I’ve discovered through the illness that I’m so fortunate to get a chance to do what I really love to do.”

Named for her appreciation of the gift of life, Olivia’s new album is part of her line of breast health and wellness products, prompted by her own experience with breast cancer. “As a woman, what I learned in my journey through life is that to take care of the ones you love, you must first take care of yourself – in body, heart and spirit,” says Olivia. “It is my hope that the ‘Olivia’ products and music will inspire women to make healthy lifestyle choices that will ease the daily pressures and help create wellness and harmony.”

Olivia Newton-John will be visiting more than 30 U.S. cities as part of her Grace and Gratitude tour this fall. There’s no slowing down for this cancer survivor whose career spans more than three decades. Olivia says of her breast cancer experience, “I think my appreciation for life doubled. It makes you realize that once you’ve dealt with that, you can face anything.”

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The Olivia™ brand product line is available exclusively at Walgreens. For more information about Olivia Newton-John, visit olivianewton-john.com.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2007.